MAN IN R.P. WARREN’S WORKS
Dr. Sulaxna Ahlawat Lecturer in English (Mewat Cadre Haryana)
R.P. Warren’s Works show his views on man and his growth. His illuminating and perceptive essay ‘Knowledge and the Image of Man’ gives a valuable clue to his concept of self and his vision of man’s quest for knowledge and self-definition. In this essay, Warren states:
“Every soul is valuable in God’s sight and the story of every soul is the story of its self-definition for good or evil, salvation or damnation.” His ‘Paris Review’ talk throws light on this statement : “your business as a writer is not to illustrate virtue but to show how a fellow may move toward it – or away from it the fundamental assumptions here are the worth and value of each soul or person before God, the story of each person as the story of his self-definition for Good or evil, salvation or damnation and writer’s job as showing how a person moves toward good and salvation or away from these to evil and damnation. Warren seems to consider man’s life a progressive spiritual journey in which man has to know and define himself and thus evolve his own personality. The silent steps of this journey he sees as follows:
“Man’s process of self-definition means that he distinguishes himself from the world and from other men. In this process he discovers the pain of self-criticism and the pain of isolation.”
In his journey of life, man seeks knowledge to know himself and to define his identity. Man has a right to knowledge, for only then he will be able to achieve fulfillment of his faculties and realize his manhood, “Knowledge gives him his identity because it gives him the image of himself.” For, out of the progressive understanding of this interpenetration he discovers new values. Thus a new self emerges the identity of which is continually unfolding and self-affirming.
Nevertheless the essay ‘Knowledge and the Image of Man’ which was published in 1955, seems to be documented by the novels. It comes somewhat in the middle of Warren’s novelistic career. As a matter of fact, the essay seems to justify what he wrote before and to theorize for what was to follow. Warren’s singular achievement is that he has given us the image of man as a responsible moral being. He believes that “the moral regeneration of society depends not upon shifts in mechanism but upon the moral regeneration of men”. “The modern world is in moral confusion. It does suffer from a lack of discipline, of sanction, of community, of value, of a sense of mission. . . . It is world in which self-interest, work-ableness, success provide the standards of conduct,”
His contribution to the moral rehabilitation of the world is the hope of its improvement if individual in spite of their mistakes, are morally regenerated. He tells us positively:
“Let us try, therefore, to create a society in which each man may develop as far as possible those capacities that distinguish his manhood and in which each man will accept his responsibility for trying to realize his common humanity at its highest.”
Through the awareness of life’s inherent pathos and pain of self-criticism man may escape the entrapment of his own ego and achieve a communion which his fellows and with nature.
Warren is not without hope for modern society. While in ‘The Legacy of the Civil War’ he argued for a national assumption of moral responsibility and in ‘Segregation’ and ‘Who Speaks for the Negro?’ he suggested that social movements founded on the rights and value of the individual might restore purpose to American life, in Democracy and ‘Poetry’ he offers the elixir of poetry, the highest expression of human experience, the dynamics affirmation of, as well as the concept of self.
‘A Place to come to’ explores Jed Tewksbury’s apprehension of Morality and Modern World’s moral Anarchy. In his first novel most of the character don’t attain self-knowledge. In the second, some of the most important characters due, along with knowledge of other in some way, but they define themselves for evil and choose the path of damnation. ‘All the King’s Men’ narrates the story of several men who don’t know themselves.
“Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something.”
The same idea is found in ‘Brother to Dragons’, but on the personal level, the fall is not all. If there is death, there is also rebirth, as is evident from Warren’s observation in ‘Knowledge and the Image of Men’. Warren leads his characters to knowledge and redemption through and after their own sins. “History is blind, but man is not”.
‘World Enough and Time’, no less than ‘All the King’s Men’ is shaped by something which the principal character doesn’t recognize until the end. Both discovered that World is more intricately organized than they had imagined it to be. The discovery of love is emphasized in Warren’s ninth novel ‘Meet Me in the Green Glen’. Cassie Killigrew spottwood Learns what love is after years of separateness and loneliness.
Self acceptance as an important stage in the individual journey to self-knowledge and self definition for good can be seen illustrated in Warren’s seventh and shortest novel ‘Wilderness’.
Not surprisingly his characters are often disturbed and disillusioned at what they find in America. He makes America a symbol of the potential for growth and self-realization in the individual as well as in the American nation. His literary output concentrates on national and individual identity and mourns the corruption. Warren was not the first to exalt art as the redeemer of civilization. He may have been among the last. Society might thus be redeemed from technocratic depersonalization, though he offers this hope as nothing more than a possibility.
To conclude, we can say that Warren has given us redemptive hope based on the knowledge, we gain as we undertake our life journey in search of self-knowledge, identity and self-definition.